The Alzheimer’s population is growing.
Trinity at Home Community Outreach Coordinator Teresa Dakins said when she started her career as a caregiver, people were afraid to share when they were diagnosed with the disease. They were concerned about being judged or being looked at as “aggressive” or “crazy,” so they hid it from the world.
Now, people are more open and willing to learn how to help their loved ones or neighbors navigate their Alzheimer’s journey. There is more education available, as well as support groups
“When I first started in home care, probably one in every 15 people had it, and now it’s probably one in five. There is more of an awareness, so people are being diagnosed at a younger age,” Dakins said. “More people also want to learn about it.”
One of the groups interested in learning more was the Rowan Rotary Club, which went through a training this summer to become Rowan County’s first Dementia Friendly Rotary Club.
Dementia Friends Champion
Over the summer, the Rotary Club contacted Dakins, who facilitates the Rowan County Alzheimer’s Support Group that meets at Trinity Oaks, to ask if she could teach its members more about the disease and how to interact with friends and family who have been diagnosed.
Dakins immediately enlisted the help of Amanda Buck, vice president of community outreach for Cannon Pharmacy, to put the club through Dementia Friends Champion training.
A Dementia Friends Champion is a volunteer who goes through a training that prepares them to encourage others to make a positive difference to people living with dementia in their community. Developed by the Alzheimer’s Society in the United Kingdom, Dementia Friends is a global movement that hopes to change the way people think, act, and talk about dementia.
Dementia Friends USA began offering the training in various states, and Dementia Friends North Carolina was created. The training in the Greater Charlotte Region is hosted by the Centralina Area Agency on Aging.
“The vision is to make people Dementia Friends, and what that basically means is that you’ve gone through this educational session and you’ve learned enough that would make you very confident if you had a neighbor with dementia,” Buck said.
The training, which is also great for businesses, Buck added, teaches people how to notice signs that someone has dementia, and how to interact with them without getting frustrated.
Buck said as an individual starts to decline, it becomes more difficult for their caregiver to take them out in public. That’s why this training is beneficial to employees of businesses they might visit frequently, like grocery stores, banks, and restaurants.
“Part of the movement is to get more business owners aware of the disease, so when that person comes in their store and is doing the repetitive talking, the store owner isn’t confused,” Dakins added. “They can try to carry a conversation and make the customer feel warm and friendly.”
The training is 30 to 45 minutes, and all participants received a certificate. The Rowan Rotary Club completed its training at Trinity Oaks.
“This session is so good because it helps people who can spread the movement. The reality is, the more we make a dementia-friendly community, the better everybody is,” Buck said. “If we work together as a team, it may reduce the need for them to have a lot of homecare hours. If a neighbor can do a few hours a week, that helps everyone.”